The morning of the fourth day found us sharing the water with a pair of swans.
They were nervous about our proximity, calling to let us know of their displeasure. The honks increased in frequency and intensity until they took off to find some privacy. They created an unforgettable image as they passed by. These are the moments that make this place more than just the fish.
We waited for the hatch to signal the beginning of the day's fishing. A brief shower pattered on our hats.
Then the bugs came. This is my favorite time on the river.
I made my way to the grassy bank and fished to the waves of risers that came and went. I got lots of near misses and brief hookups before catching another fine healthy rainbow who couldn't resist a cinnamon ant.
We took breaks, sitting in the comfortable "recliners" the banks provide. It's a time to repair leaders and tippets, go through fly boxes searching for inspiration, and watch the river flow by around your boots.
As the sun went down I was still fishing the backlit grassy bank. You could call it a fruitless obsession with one spot in the entire river, or devotion to the place that gives you the strongest feeling of fishiness and sense of possibility.
Meanwhile, you should know, John was ranging far and wide and each time we would meet up he would give me his catch report. He was fishing rings around me. Many 12 to 16 inchers and a handful of fish at the 18 inch mark. He would often catch them in places I had just fished. Once as he was wading back to the bank he flipped his fly out right into the mouth of a good 16 inch fish.He hadn't seen any sign of it; he just happened to throw the fly to the right spot at the right time.
As we headed for the car I knew my work was cut out for me.
On the morning of the fifth day I waded over to the island in the back channel and crossed over it to the back back channel. We have often fished along the front of the island, but in some years long ago the back of the island held what we were looking for.
Right back here is the magic place where I caught my first 20 inch Henry's Fork rainbow. And it wasn't the only one I caught here. They were holding under stationary weed mats, and would delicately sip in a cinnamon ant drifted along the edge. Once my fly sank under the mat and when I began to pull it in to recast I found myself in a tug of war with another big old rainbow. Once after I had lost the last cinnamon ant I had on me I saw a big heavy rise bloom just out there in mid-channel. I pulled out my fly box, selected an Adams dry, and clipped it into an ant shape with my nippers. I showed it to that fish and he took it. Another 20+ fish.
This year I was alone with my memories. There were no fish or rises to be seen. I still fished my way down that shoreline paying close attention to the blowdowns, but to no avail.
On this day I did some ranging myself and covered some new water.
New water for me, that is. John had already been there and he was still outfishing me.
Then something happened that would cause us concern for the rest of the trip: the wind started blowing early in the day, around 10 or 11 o'clock instead of holding off until 1 or 2 o'clock. It made the conditions more challenging. I still have a soft hackle stuck in the back of my jacket. And I'm still glad it wasn't stuck in my ear.
We headed back to the cabin early hoping for better conditions the next morning.